Friday, September 8, 2017

Writing the West.... One Bride at a Time

Writing the West.... One Bride at a Time

As many of you may know, writing historical means lots of research.  Just when I think I know enough about life in the west during the1800s, something comes up and I have to do more exploration.

Everything was so different back then, especially in the untamed west. From the way household chores were done, how meals were prepared and even the way people interacted.  During the last book I wrote, which is a mail order bride story, set in Wyoming, 1872, I came across an interesting situation.  How would a single woman survive if the husband-to-be either changed his mind, or died?

In the west, if a woman did not have money, she would be forced to fill mostly domestic duties such as housekeeping, cook or such.  Although women did have some choices, they were very limited.  Many owned businesses, such as restaurants, apothecaries and bakeries, while others ran boarding houses.  However, most of the women in the west had to work hard to barely survive.  Even the married ones, if the husband didn’t make enough, they would work alongside him at farming, ranching or in whatever business they ran.

When women were without resources of income, there was always marriage to a man who could provide a home and protection. Some would end up marrying right away, as men were plentiful and many willing to marry a mail order bride.

In my latest book, the mail order bride, Sarah, decides to find a job after her husband-to-be does not come to meet her when she arrives.  As a matter of fact, he is there at the place where the stagecoach arrives and does not greet her.  [Sarah, A Festive Bride]

Sarah did have a bit of money with her and was able to secure a room in town.  Having arrived with the new town’s teacher, Sarah asked the schoolmarm if she could use help, and together they approached the town’s mayor and asked for work for Sarah a couple days a week. Sarah then found a second job at the apothecary.  I am not sure how accurate this would be in real life.  I can’t imagine this happening to someone.  It would be terrifying.

Of course it goes without saying that many women, who were stranded in the Wild West ended up with a less desirable way to make a living.  Brothels and saloons were a means to survive, although not a good way.  Many women in those establishments were mistreated and caught transmittable deceases. Most died very young.

There are so many articles and stories of mail order marriages going either wonderfully well or horribly wrong.  My favorite was of the bride whose train was held up by robbers.  The leader of the gang allowed the upset bride-to-be to keep her trousseau before blowing up the train.  Was he a kind-hearted robber?  Maybe, or maybe not, since it turned out he was the groom.  This makes great fodder for a book!  If you want to look up the true story, the mail order bride’s name was Eleanor Barry.

Now, I’m off to do more research, because my interest has been piqued once. I going to look up more mail order bride stories because I need ideas, truth can be a lot more interesting than fiction.

Read Sarah, A Festive Bride today! The book is on Amazon here:

Hildie McQueen
USA Today bestselling author of the Brides for All Seasons series

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